February 19, 2005

With friends like these: What Kevin Drum said. Whatever validity there may be to Prof. Estrich's argument that the LA Times does not seek out the voices of women for the Op-Ed page, making a snide remark about an illness suffered by your adversary is cruel and offensive. No wonder Dukakis lost.

Actually, I don't even accept the sincerity of her underlying argument. Estrich's column isn't exactly a must-read; her attacks on Arriana Huffington's candidacy (for being a poor mom), and her puffery of Ahnolt Ziffel during the 2003 recall (especially after the Times published accurate accounts of his serial gropery), were hardly endearing to progressives or feminists. That she criticized the Times for publishing a piece by a conservative writer (Charlotte Allen) on the grounds that she possessed thin literary credentials, is hardly an argument that a blogger is going take seriously. Should the Times (and other papers) seek out feminist voices and female writers (of any political persuasion)? Absofreakinglutely. Should Kinsley succumb to a protection racket, backed by a prominent law professor, to hire her pals and cronies? Well, if he does, I think I may have just discovered a way to use this website to wet my beak....

February 18, 2005

Connecting the dots: The first story laying out the intimate connections between Karl Rove, GOPUSA/Talon News, and Jeff Gannon. Note in particular Gannon's work on a pet project of Rove's, the Thune-Daschle Senate race.

February 17, 2005

Great Daily Show last night, focusing, at long last, on the blogosphere. "Ted Hitler" gets it !! [link via Americablog]

February 16, 2005

Oddly, the MoDo column on Gannongate is more insightful, and pulls fewer punches, than the article by Mr. Grassy Knoll himself, Sid Blumenthal. Money quote:
Does the Bush team love everything military so much that even a military-stud Web site is a recommendation?

Or maybe Gannon/Guckert's willingness to shill free for the White House, even on gay issues, was endearing. One of his stories mocked John Kerry's "pro-homosexual platform" with the headline "Kerry Could Become First Gay President."

With the Bushies, if you're their friend, anything goes. If you're their critic, nothing goes. They're waging a jihad against journalists - buying them off so they'll promote administration programs, trying to put them in jail for doing their jobs and replacing them with ringers.
Frank Rich is also worth reading on the subject. All three understand why this story is perhaps a tad more important than the off-the-cuff remarks of a cable news executive: an Administration that has created a propaganda outfit, complete with its own version of state TV (FoxNews), and with pundits and bloggers willing to parrot the official line at a very affordable price, finally gets burned.
It turns out that "Talon News" didn't even exist when "Jeff Gannon" asked his first question at a White House press briefing. In other words, the news service seems to have been created to provide Mr. Guckert a front to gain access into the White House, rather than serve any legitimate journalistic purpose. For whose benefit?
A beautiful example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, from the Washington Monthly, on the issue of "tort reform":
The news coverage may be creating some unexpected consequences: Some academic researchers suspect that all the hype about the litigation crisis might actually be making Americans more litigious by giving them the erroneous impression that compensation is available through the courts for most injuries. As McCann says, "Tort reformers may have produced more frivolous claims while making legitimate claims harder to bring."
It seems WaPost media critic Howard Kurtz has done a 180 on Gannongate. I guess there's nothing like having your principal source lie to you to concentrate the mind.

February 15, 2005

Another perspective on Gannongate:
The only thing that almost surprised me about the "Jeff Gannon" story was that the White House ran the operation. But, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The White House has taken over the work formerly done by the intelligence agencies. While there has never been a time when the intelligence agencies and the White House and Congress all got along and worked together like good children, in the past there was at least a stated goal of using intelligence to make decisions. That's over. Decisions are now made and brazenly thrown out in public, and the intelligence flunkies better come up with the supporting evidence fast, unless they're ready for immediate retirement (at best). The current happy working environment requires the "intelligence data" to completely support predetermined White House policy, while intelligence data that doesn't meet current Bush Administration policy (Bin Laden agents preparing for a massive hijacking & air attack campaign within the United States in the fall of 2001, for example, or inept Arab flight-school students demanding to fly passenger jets when they can't manage to pilot a Cessna) is tossed aside, totally ignored, while those who bring in the inconvenient intel are removed and destroyed.

And the White House has a fantastic new weapon unknown to any American intelligence agency save for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI: There is no oversight. Nobody can get in the way. Better still, it doesn't matter if you get caught. There's no penalty for lies, obstruction, killing 1,500 Americans in Iraq, handing out billions of taxpayer dollars to your friends' companies, inventing fake New York terrorist plots to scare the hell out of voters right before the election, the widespread torturing of foreign suspects, engineering the transformation of Iraq from a beaten secular rogue state to an emboldened Islamic rogue state, the failure to prosecute a single U.S. "terrorist," or even blowing the cover of your own spies and double-agents to tip the polls for a week. Nothing is punishable. So why not plant a weirdo in the press-briefing room and call on him to make fun of whatever limp opposition remains? Send your opponents scrambling to keep up with whatever falsehoods you're currently peddling, and your people can keep on with the hard work: Sending another $100 billion straight to your donors who run the defense industry and untold billions to the boys running the "homeland security" business.
--Ken Layne
Frank Rich, on the Right's latest vendetta against a pinko Hollywood pervert:
Just when it seemed that Hollywood had turned a post-election page in the culture wars, the commissars of the right cooked up a new, if highly unlikely, grievance against "Holly-weird," as they so wittily call it. This was no easy task.

They couldn't credibly complain that "The Passion of the Christ" was snubbed by the movie industry's "elite" (translation: Jews), since it nailed three nominations, including one for makeup (translation: really big noses). That showing bested not only "Fahrenheit 9/11" but "Shrek 2," the year's top moneymaker. Nor could they resume hostilities against their perennial bogeymen Ben Affleck, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Barbra Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg. All are nonplayers in this year's awards.

So what do you do? Imagine SpongeBob tendencies in the carefully sanitized J.M. Barrie of "Finding Neverland"? Attack a recently deceased American legend, Ray Charles, for demanding that his mistress get an abortion in "Ray"? No, only a counterintuitive route could work. Hence, the campaign against Clint Eastwood, a former Republican officeholder (mayor of Carmel in the late 1980s), Nixon appointee to the National Council of the Arts and action hero whose breakthrough role in the Vietnam era was as a vigilante cop, Dirty Harry, whom Pauline Kael famously called "fascist." There hasn't been a Hollywood subversive this preposterous since the then 10-year-old Shirley Temple's name surfaced at a House Un-American Activities Committee hearing in 1938.
[link via TalkLeft]

February 14, 2005

The fallback position of the Beltway press on the "Gannon" story has been that it was somehow inappropriate to "go after" his personal life (ie., his homosexuality), as if it were somehow not germane to the discussion of how a non-credentialed "reporter" using a fake name was able to gain access inside the White House. AmericaBlog, which has done some of the most aggressive reporting on the subject, has a detailed post up about some of the more unsavory aspects of Mr. Guckert's "personal life", and why it is relevant to the scandal. It's very explicit, so you've been warned....

February 13, 2005

Friday night, I attended a party at a loft next to MacArthur Park in downtown L.A. hosted by Mark Brown of Buzznet. For those of you who are new to the internets, Buzznet is front and center of the emerging "photoblog" trend, and those of you who are intrigued by the potential of sites such as this one, who own a digital camera, and who also have the same desire for self-publicity should check out that site. Also, Mr. Brown is a terrific host, whose willingness to put up with the chainsmoking of myself and a documentary crew from French television is proof he has the patience of Job.

One of the discussions I had was about one of the most remarkeable posts in the history of political blogs, one I briefly alluded to last week: this Michael Totten piece, about an afterparty attended by himself, Christopher Hitchens, and several Iraqis following a televised panel they did on the elections two weeks ago. Totten is one of the more conservative links on my blogroll, which may be an indication of how far left I've traveled. He's what used to be known as a "Jackson Democrat" (after Scoop Jackson), a hawk on foreign policy with liberal views on other issues, but unlike other bloggers who pay lip service to those principles, he walks the walk. He's a fine writer and photographer, especially concerning his frequent traveling, and the aforementioned post is one reason why he's such a terrific blogger.

Totten completely exposes himself in that post. Having said and done any number of idiotic things myself, I know how hard it can be to put myself on the line, to write something that may make me look like a fool (at least intentionally). The temptation to edit out the embarassing details is strong. Totten, on the other hand, does not come off looking all that good; for example, his recounting of the patronizing manner in which he and Mr. Hitchens announced there would be certain limitations to this "self-government" thing the Iraqis were seizing at the polls that day, and his genuine discomfort with the angry reaction his guests had at their presumption, has already been much commented on. The relentless manner of his kissing up to Hitchens, as well as his description of the way in which the odious Mr. Hitchens loses himself to the bottle, are discomforting to the reader.

But Totten is too smart not to know this, yet he still (I hope accurately) gives his readers a warts-and-all version of what happened that night. He gives a rationale for his opinions that the reader can agree or disagree with, but he doesn't hide behind a curtain of false dignity. It makes for fascinating reading, and at the end, you can't help feeling a grudging respect for the man.

A good blog should always inform the reader that it is fronted by a real, flawed human being, and Totten's post does that, in the tradition of Andrew Sullivan's infamous post about his backed-up toilet. Any blogger who does not allow his audience to see his inner assclown will remain mired in mediocrity, which is why Michael Totten has, and deserves, a large audience.